Friday, July 4, 2008

Stratford "Sacred" to Brian Dennehy

Gary Smith (The Hamilton Spectator) interviews Brian Dennehy:

"Brian Dennehy is a closet intellectual. I know because he said so.

"Never mind that he made most of his money in action flicks like Gladiator (the 1992 boxing film), Silverado and Assault on Precinct 13.

"'Half the time I don't even remember the movies I was in,' he says with a shrug. 'Hollywood is mostly a load of crap. The movies they make are strictly for kids.'

"A tall, handsome man, casual in approach, Dennehy sits back in a comfy chair and sips his coffee. Born in Bridgeport, Conn., he has the gift of blarney, as you might expect given his Irish ancestors.

"'I don't mind doing crap,' he says with a grin. 'If I'm asked, I'm there in a shot. But I have no illusions. Hollywood isn't all that interested any more. I'm too old, I suppose.

"'But I don't care. I've had a great ride.'

"Dennehy is in Stratford to appear in All's Well That Ends Well, as well as star in the double bill of Krapp's Last Tape, by Samuel Beckett, and Hughie, by Eugene O'Neill.

"With two Tonys on his mantel, he's no slouch in the drama department.

"'I come from Irish immigrant stock,' he says. 'But I'm not as tough as people think. I can be hurt.'

"He strokes a grizzled face and his blue eyes dance.

"I've been panned,' he says. 'But what are the critics? They're no help, really. They can't help you when you're bad, and certainly not when you're good. You spend months working on a part and some jerk comes along and tells you what you're doing isn't right.

"'And the audience? Well, they wait for their instructions. They have to see if the show is good or bad by reading a review? C'mon.

"'Of course every actor says he never reads reviews,' he continues. 'Hah. Paul Scofield told me never, never. Then his wife chimes in. "No, he doesn't read them. He has me read them to him, very, very slowly."'

"A roar from Dennehy, and the conversation moves on.

"'I love [the] Stratford Festival," he says. "This place is real. It's all about doing the work. Trying to make it good.

"'On Broadway, it's all about who you're going to get to star in the play, how you're going to beat the critics and how much money the whole thing's going to make.

"'It's commerce, not theatre.'

"That said, Dennehy has acted the socks off O'Neill on stage, from The Iceman Cometh to Long Day's Journey into Night with Vanessa Redgrave and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

"Then there were 650 performances as Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.

"'You know, in a part like that, you never stop growing. I was still learning at the very last performance. Now that's a role.'

"In Stratford, Dennehy is flexing his acting muscle, playing Beckett, O'Neill and Shakespeare.

"'Those are three heavy hitters,' he says. 'Maybe I'm nuts. But you know, I'm 70 July 9. I feel my head very close to the ceiling. I'm aware of mortality. Ten years ago, I thought, "Oh hell, I've got plenty of time." Now it's another thing.

"'I feel like I've used my days wisely though,' he says. 'I've squeezed it all out. That's not a sad comment, just an honest thought.'

"The topic returns to Stratford and the roles he's playing this season.

"'This is graduate school, you know," he says. "If you want to be an actor, this is the place to be.

"'I'm so glad I'm here. There's nothing like this in the States. Nothing. We have great regional theatres, but nothing like this. There'll be claw marks if they try to get me out of here, now I've discovered what it means.

"'This place has the right kind of ambition. It should be regarded as a sacred institution, nirvana.'

"Dennehy drinks the last slurp of coffee. He gets ready to go back to rehearsal.

"When you see the exit sign blinking in your face, you realize the only thing that matters is grabbing hold of each day. That's very Beckett, very O'Neill and very Dennehy to boot.

"'Come watch me make a fool of myself,' he says with a laugh.

"I doubt it, Mr. Dennehy. I doubt it very much."

1 comment:

Susie Q said...

I have seen Mr. Dennehy do DOAS and Inheroit the Wind on stage and he IS amazing. I would have loved to see his trifecta in Stratford.
Thanks for posting this.